As a new cook, back when people were still rubbing two sticks together to make fire, I thought Chinese food was so mysterious. The people who made Chinese food seemed to know how to make magic sauces that were both sweet and sour, and cut their chicken up into funny little shapes. I looked at sweet and sour chicken and thought it surely must take a lot of training to make such a dish. Then I discovered you could buy it in a can. That rocked. Especially when heated in the new thing called the microwave.
Now I’d rather sit and rub two sticks together to make a fire rather than eat Chinese food out of a can. It’s just wrong. The neat thing about Asian food is their use of fresh vegetables and fruit and tender meats and homemade sauces. It’s about as far from canned food as you can get! Plus, I learned how to cut chicken into those funky little shapes before I stir fry them. And I learned how to make sauces and thicken them with cornstarch. I rock.
The first Chinese dish I tried was a chicken grapefruit stir fry. With skeptical looks from my P.S. and the kids who were about 5 and 10 years old at the time, I assured them it would be edible. As they retreated to the living room (murmuring together about a backup plan for a trip to Burger Heaven) I assembled my ingredients and made the amazing Chinese dish. It turned out very well, with everyone later agreeing that it was tasty and probably wouldn’t make any hair grow in awkward places. Three thumbs up!
I’ve made the dish several times since and I’m always surprised at the taste. The grapefruit adds that small touch of acid that makes the flavors of a dish more complete. If you overcook it slightly, the grapefruit disintegrates into such small bits I’m not sure you’d even know it was in there unless you were told. And even if you were told, you wouldn’t believe someone would actually put grapefruit in a chicken dish.
The grapefruit flavor isn’t strong in the dish; it’s just a nice compliment to the other flavors. I use either spinach or broccoli for the green vegetable, depending on what I have in the fridge. Even asparagus cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces might be great with these flavors.
Besides being fun to section out a couple three grapefruits, I like to randomly dice the chicken into unusual looking pieces. Simply dicing it into squares seems too rigid. Really good food has to be designer shaped as well. I think that’s a rule. That means cutting the breasts into strips and randomly hacking pieces off at angles in different directions. It makes the food look like I really know what I’m doing.
This dish is best served over long grain white rice. Not Minute Rice. Never Minute Rice. Please learn to make regular rice, I beg you. It makes a huge difference in flavors. I’ve also served the dish over egg noodles for a change up, and that was also acceptable to my P.S. and the kids. Although the kids would have eaten anything on egg noodles. Except lutefisk. Nobody eats that. On anything.
This is a simple stir-fry that of course goes fast so you need to have everything ready in advance. If you need advice on how to cut up grapefruit, Elizabeth has a great tutorial on her blog.
Chicken and Fresh Grapefruit Stir Fry
2 chicken breasts; about one pound skinned, boneless, cut into 1″ chunks
2 teaspoons oil
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 cloves garlic; minced
1 red bell pepper; cut into strips
2 grapefruit; sectioned, reserve juices
about 3/4 cup chicken broth
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons water
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 lb spinach; fresh, chopped roughly (I substituted broccoli)
1/4 lb snow peas (optional)
2 green onions; sliced diagonally
1/2 cup cashews (optional)
Peel and section grapefruit over bowl; reserve juice.
Combine juice and soy sauce and add enough chicken broth to equal 1 cup liquid. Combine with cornstarch and sugar. Set aside.
Rinse chicken breasts and pat dry; remove any excess fat. Cut into thin strips then 1″ chunks.
Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet, then stir fry the chicken and red pepper flakes over medium-high heat for 5 minutes, or until lightly brown. If substituting broccoli, add it after about 3 minutes. Add the red bell peppers and garlic at this time.
Add the spinach and cook, stirring until the spinach begins to wilt, about 3 minutes. (omit if using broccoli or other vegetable).
Add the juices and stir until it begins to thicken and bubble.
Add the grapefruit, snow peas and green onions and stir until just heated, about 2 or 3 more minutes. Check for seasoning and add salt, pepper and soy sauce to taste.
Serve over rice sprinkled with cashews (optional).